Creative Ireland Clare – Focus Group, January 16th 2018 Lead by Deirdre Enright
I was invited to attend the above focus group as a representative of Clare PPN last week. We received short notice of the invitation and so I asked on social media if there was anything in particular that people wanted raised at the focus group- here’s how I got on and what I learned-
The first thing to say was that this focus group was about how Creative Ireland Clare might achieve its aims in 2018. Creative Ireland is a national initiative which was started as a result of the perceived success of the 1916 100 anniversary commemorations around the country- as I remember the idea behind it was to try and capture the energy and enthusiasm for events at local level organised by communities and local authorities into something lasting which could build on culture and community for everyone’s benefit. More on Creative Ireland here https://creative.ireland.ie/en
Part of Creative Ireland’s plan involved setting up Creative Ireland Teams in all local authority areas which include Arts office staff, Library Staff, Heritage Staff, Rural and Social Development Staff and others. Last year’s Creative Ireland Clare Plan is here https://creative.ireland.ie/en/local-plans/clare
The purpose of this focus group seemed to be to examine how Clare County Council’s Creative Ireland Team and in particular the Arts Office could best use the funds available to help make the arts thrive in Clare. The total funding per county for Creative Ireland is €94,000 this year. This does not include local government funding for the arts or arts council funding etc it is just a Creative Ireland fund. Creative Ireland has also got an ambitious plan to enhance arts and cultural participation in schools but that is funded separately to the general Local Authority Fund.
The discussions were on the need for arts infrastructure, for artists to be supported with places to make large works, for the money to go directly to artists, for the money to be used to help provide professional arts staff who might be able to support artists/festivals in getting work done and made.
Because it was a focus group rather than a strategy session things were more brainstormed than decided upon but in an attempt to sum up the main themes of the discussion or the main points of agreement-
Clare could do with a creative hub or space where people could make work and network –an arts place.
The arts and cultural scene in Clare has a severe lack of human infrastructure- staff paid in sustainable positions to promote and develop the arts in Clare – and to help artists and festivals with the business of keeping themselves working- funding, grant applications, promotions, work spaces etc. The Arts Office has only one full time staff member and so growing the arts and being available and accessible to people county wide is a huge ask at this level of staffing.
The arts office could also do with its own dedicated website separate from Clare County Council’s main page. This would help it communicate, promote arts events and be more accessible to people in the county.
Clare needs to ensure that artists can where possible earn sustainable livelihoods in Clare and that those who are from the county and leave for university or to go further afield are included in the artistic life of the county where possible –so attention should be paid to artists living and working in Clare and to the internal and international diaspora many of whom are engaged in the arts.
A suggestion was also made to investigate the possibilities of corporate supports such as businesses that might want an artist in residence etc as a way of putting arts at the core of life in Clare.
The focus group concluded with that with the next step being for Deirdre Enright the consultant to collate the findings from all the sectoral focus groups they conducted and to help draft a creative Ireland programme for 2018 from it.
This is not the County Arts Development Plan 2018 – although some issues raised at the focus groups may be reflected in that plan. Apparently there will be consultation on that in the near future- I will keep you posted if I hear anything about that.